Oscar did OK, but couldn't get a KO

Times Staff Writer

The two questions that lingered longest after Oscar De La Hoya's 12-round dominance of Steve Forbes on Saturday night were these:

If he can't knock out Forbes, how is he going to knock out Floyd Mayweather Jr. in September?

When was the last time Oscar fought so energetically in the final rounds?

To the first question, De La Hoya's trainer and Mayweather Jr.'s father, Floyd Sr. -- now, there's a story you'll be seeing -- agreed that power punching will be a focus of training camp in Big Bear for the Sept. 20 bout in Las Vegas.

"He didn't do as much as I wanted," Floyd Sr. said. Still, "If Oscar throws his jab, uses his jab aggressively, moves and counterpunches, it won't be a problem."

In his post-fight comments, De La Hoya (39-5, 30 knockouts) was so enthused by his late-round performance, he said, "I can't wait for September," and explained that he expected that fight, too, to be destined for the distance.

"I'll fight 12 hard rounds come September," De La Hoya said.

He said he felt "all the rust" from his 12-month layoff after a split-decision loss to Mayweather Jr. last May vanish in the final two rounds Saturday.

De La Hoya, stained by the memory of his late-round dodge of Felix Trinidad in 1999 and criticized by Mayweather Jr. as a boxer who routinely wilts in the final championship rounds, hammered Forbes with repeated attacks in the 10th round, leaving the former "Contender" fighter's eyes puffed.

He stuck a combination into Forbes' body, at Mayweather Sr.'s urging, in the 11th, and went on the attack against Forbes in the 12th even though victory was assured.

"I was strong in the last half of the fight, standing on my toes, popping my jab," De La Hoya said. "It was incredible, and why I feel I can still do this."

Of course, the next opponent is far superior to six-loss Forbes.

Mayweather Jr. (39-0, 25 KOs), who knocked out Ricky Hatton in the 10th round in December, has better hand speed, footwork and defensive abilities than Forbes, even if their styles are similar.

De La Hoya "definitely boxed a lot more, doubling, tripling his jab -- that's something Floyd Sr. teaches -- and that will help him a lot more" in the rematch, Forbes said after his loss.

Post-fight, De La Hoya said he injured his left hand when one of those jabs caught Forbes' head and that he knew he had to grit it out because his left jab was crucial to winning.

The hand was later examined at White Memorial Medical Center in East Los Angeles, but no break was found, and by Sunday the swelling was subsiding.

In the second half of last May's fight against Mayweather Jr., De La Hoya had all but abandoned his jab -- an error that effectively cost him the fight, losing his super-welterweight belt by one point on one judge's scorecard.

The second De La Hoya-Mayweather Jr. fight will be officially negotiated immediately, De La Hoya's business partner Richard Schaefer said.

As to De La Hoya's planning to fight Mayweather Jr. at a negotiated weight of 150, and thus not for the title, Schaefer said that while it would be easier for De La Hoya at 154 and for Mayweather at 147, "at this point in their careers, the titles don't mean as much as being the best."

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Mayweather Jr.'s manager, Leonard Ellerbe, said, "Oscar taking care of his business and having the best trainer in the world is a good thing. The world will debate what will happen, but we know. . . . "

Ellerbe said the rematch will be "one that will break all previous records," after the first one set records for pay-per-view audience and total revenue.

Former middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins, a partner in De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, said the rematch of a split decision is a strong draw but added, "You can't disregard the personal issues with the father and son. You promote that, tell the people to show up, and believe me, they will."

De La Hoya said that with "more jabs, being on my toes more, moving my head, working the body," and less fatigue from constant tension in the ring thanks to some Mayweather Sr. tips, he will gain revenge and defeat Mayweather Jr.

"This is personal, you watch, I'm going to beat him. . . . I'm going to beat the best," he said.

Then, in a prelude of things to come, Mayweather Sr. summed up Saturday's victory by saying, "This is the beginning of preparation to fight my son."



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